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Disaster Planning – Communication 101

By: Florence Solonche, CPA, CITP

On April 15, 2013, initial reports of the Boston Marathon bombing were conveyed by runners and bystanders via text and smartphone photos.  Early morning on Friday, April 19, Boston was shut down.   Many of us had loved ones who were “sheltering in place”.  Once again, the best way to communicate was via text.

Fast Company posted this timely and relevant account of why your phones do not work during disasters.

http://www.fastcompany.com/3008458/tech-forecast/why-your-phone-doesnt-work-during-disasters-and-how-fix-it

Personally and professionally, when a disaster hits, whether natural or man-made, you need to have a communication plan in place.  Open a Twitter account.   You do not have to “tweet” but you can “follow”.  During the Blizzard of February 2010, The Office of the Mayor “tweeted” hourly overnight and declared a state of emergency closing down Baltimore City.  As a firm, having this information was crucial.

Prior to Hurricane Sandy, we had several days to prepare in advance, unlike the Derecho of 2012, which found all of us including the utility companies, ill prepared for an extended power outage.

What are some of the lessons learned?

  • Keep of list of your most important contacts at all times.
  • Plan to rely on text not voice communication.
  • Follow Twitter.
  • Have a plan in place to contact your employees.  They need to have a central point of contact.  During Hurricane Sandy, cellular, voice, and email systems on the East Coast were down for days and in some cases weeks.  Texting and Twitter were the only means of communication that were getting through effectively.
  • Have power cords for your mobile devices readily accessible.  During the Derecho, many of us were without power for over a week, recharging our mobile devices wherever we could.

The recent weather events on the East Coast and Boston Marathon bombing point to the importance of communication.  Have a common sense plan in place to connect with your loved ones and your employees.

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